As a woman — a Black woman, specifically — I have never had the luxury, or been foolish enough, to underestimate the role that racism and misogyny have played in the construction and, at many times, destruction of our country. Stacey Abrams’ loss is heartbreaking for any Georgian who hopes to move our state forward as a place where folks can have basic freedoms, especially as we bear witness to leadership that has stripped many of us of rights and autonomy that we once had.
But for Black women, especially, it’s a reminder of the obstacles that we have always faced, because of who we are. It’s a reminder of the oftentimes thankless labor that we continue to pour into our country.
The demographic breakdown of who did and didn’t vote for and against Abrams tells us what we already know. Meaningful, positive change cannot fall entirely on Black people, and it shouldn’t have to. In Georgia, over half of the population is white, and although the Democratic Party relies on Black voters more than any other group, about 31% of Georgia’s population is Black. I am heartbroken by the callous prioritization of self over society — because that’s what voting for most GOP candidates in 2022, or choosing to not vote at all, is. But I’m not surprised by it.
Witnessing the rise of Trump has forever changed my understanding of an unfortunate truth. Millions of Americans will continue to vote against their best interest to preserve what truly interests them — white supremacy and patriarchy, both of which enabled and empowered a white man with less than zero qualifications and no apparent moral compass to win the presidency in 2016 (and narrowly lose during re-election). There’s no doubt in my mind that race and gender were two defining factors for voters in the race between Abrams and Kemp.
There’s a reason why, with the recent election of Maryland’s Wes Moore, only three Black people have been elected governor in our country’s history. There’s also a reason why a Black woman has never been elected governor in our country’s history.
Stacey Abrams is Black and a woman — she needed all of the support she could get, moreso from her party than the grassroots organizers who left it all on the table. The Democratic Party has been reactionary and more of a “stop the bleeding” kind of vote for the last several years. That is not enough. It’s not enough to get us to where we need to go, to become the “land of the free” this country claims it already is. It’s not enough to engage the voting blocs needed to outweigh their competition: an oppressive, law-bending, at times corrupt, Republican Party that, whether we like it or not, executes on their agenda — especially on the federal level.
I once wrote that, “I’m an optimist because I have to be. My very existence is predicated on the unrelenting hope and faith my ancestors had in the face of an incomprehensible amount of darkness and destruction.” That reality is what we should hold on to. Throughout history, Black women have persisted and overcome so much. Although it’s disheartening to still live in a world that requires this kind of tenacity and fight, perhaps we can find comfort in the knowledge that the strength, wisdom, and ability to overcome is in our DNA.
Abrams’ impact extends far beyond her run for governor. She injected a renewed sense of hope, energy, and action in Georgia and beyond state lines with her groundbreaking work during the 2020 election.
As someone who was raised in Georgia, and has lived here most of my life, the fact that we were even in a position to hope for this Black woman to win this race is huge. This Black woman and Spelman College graduate had a real chance at moving into Georgia’s governor’s mansion — which sits about twenty miles from the world’s largest confederate monument, where the Ku Klux Klan assembled in 1915 for its rebirth.
In the face of this heartbreaking defeat, it’s crucial that we acknowledge the progress, celebrate Abrams’ achievement, and honor the time and effort she has poured into our democracy by continuing to push for positive change.
Abrams said during her concession speech, “While I may not have crossed the finish line, that does not mean we will ever stop running for a better Georgia. We will never stop running for the truth that we know to be true, for the people we know need to see us. For the ones who don’t know they deserve to stand, let alone run.”
Stacey Abrams — we will keep running with you for a better Georgia. We see you and we thank you.